Niger State — In what is emerging as a comic twist to the flooding disaster in Niger State, some of the victims who are currently sheltered in camps in some parts of the state are insisting that they would like to continue living there? Why? Abject poverty!
For the people of Niger State in the past years, flooding had been limited to communities along Rivers Niger and Kaduna especially affecting those living downstream of Jebba, Kanji and Shiroro which are the three multibillion naira hydro electricity generating stations in the state.
However, the flooding of this year extended to other communities in most parts of the state including Chanchaga, Bosso, Munya, Shiroro, Borgu, Wushishi, Mokwa, Bida Edati and Lapai. Besides the human lives lost, properties worth millions of naira were lost including animals and farm produce.
As at last week, 49 lives had been lost to the flood, 117 communities displaced with no fewer than 663,000 people affected. The heavy rainfall was complemented by excess water released from the three hydro-electricity Dams of Shiroro, Jebba and Kainji in the past few weeks.
In Minna the state capital, despite the multimillion naira drainage system across the city, flooding also ravaged some of the communities resulting in the death of four people.
More devastating was a family who lost two children - Bashir, 12years, and Mustapha, 10years - had their lives terminated when they slipped into a flowing drainage in front of the Bahago Plaza, in the Tunga area during a heavy downpour.
The Legal Adviser to the leading opposition party in the state, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Barrister Joseph Kolo, also died mysteriously during a downpour in Minna. Though he was not washed away by flood, his death came while in his car waiting in front of the gate to his friend's house for the heavy rains to subside when a heavy tree gave way to the rainstorm and fell on his car, smashing it - he died instantly.
Also in Bosso Local Government Area which is a neighbouring local government to Chanchaga, members of Gwaibaitas family of Gungel Village was thrown into mourning as two members of the family were washed away by flood after a heavy downpour. The corpses of the deceased were later recovered kilometers away from their area the following day.
Similarly, Zungeru, in Wushishi Local Government Area of the state also had its own bitter experience of this years flooding. Besides farmlands washed away, two Fulani herdsmen were also washed away with their cows. Worst hit are Mokwa and Lapai Local Government Areas of the state where lives and farm produce were lost.
Mostly affected are Aza, Muregi, Zdagu, Egagi, Zdagu, Ketso Kpashafu and Lenfakus, all in Mokwa Local Government Area of the state.
In Lapai, communities displaced are Eshiu, Kpataku, Dere, Egba, Reba, Achiba, Muye-Gbako, Tsakanabi, Ebwa and they want to be relocated at Kolu in Egba Junction in Bina area. Others are Egya and Sokun who want to be relocated in Nambata-Ebege area, Pelle, Rigido, Edda, Gbami who want to be resettled at Puzhi area while Yawa, Yambabu, Koki, Elegi and Mumbu communities want to be relocated at Madalla area.
Workers at a car washing centre in Minna also watched helplessly when four cars brought for washing were submerged by the torrential rainfall just as valuable properties left in the vehicles were either damaged or washed away in the presence of the vehicle owners.
In an interview with our correspondent, Director General, Niger State Emergency Management Agency, NSEMA, Malam Mohammed Shaba, confirmed that almost 665,000 people have been displaced from no fewer that 117 communities in the state.
Chairman, Lapai Local Government Area, Alhaji Isah Saidu, has led officials of the council to the affected areas to commiserate with the affected people and gave them cash and other relief materials.
Managing Director, Upper Niger River Basin Development Authority, Professor Paul Marley, has raised an alarm over the flooding witnessed across the country in the past few weeks saying, it is a threat to the food security programme of the federal government.
According to him, "except for rice that is highly tolerant to water, other cereals like maize, Millet e.t.c. cannot. Horticulture crops and other food crops in flood affected areas are being lost and this will cause the country big problem in food production next year because it may take long for the water to subside and this may lead to high prices in food next year."
Interestingly, while many of those in various temporary camps are clamouring for their immediate return home or be resettled to a permanent place to start a new life, some of them feel contented and happy with where they are, due to the free medication and most importantly free food they are given.
Malam Shaba confirmed this while addressing Journalists on the latest flooding in the state pointing out that some of the victims who are temporarily camped at the expense of government are already lobbying some government officials to leave them where they are since they are not complaining.